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Hello. I have recently earned an A+ on my MA thesis. I also have professors willing to write good references. I had always assumed that if I did a PHD I would simply carry on here because my life is here. However, considering my grades, perhaps its worth a shot elsewhere - a better university where I could stand a better shot at getting a TT job afterwards.

Can someone weigh in on these questions?
1. Is it reasonable to contact philosophy depts and scholarship offices in order to "shop around" for the best stipends/scholarship (I am somewhat worried at how arrogant this might seem).

2. Would an A+ on my MA and decent written references land me a real shot at a top ten (like Harvard or NYU) or is it naive to think grades matter - perhaps letters from advisors and writing samples matter more? How about the grades alone getting my into a top 20, (like Australian National Uni)?

3. I am older with a partner and dependent child. Does anybody know the best package for a guy like me? For example, ANU is tempting because of their scholarship amount, travel/moving allowance, and dependent-child allowance - but it doesn't cover fees. Auckland, on the other hand, covers fees and offers 27K. 

Any insights into these practical considerations would be much appreciated. If I was younger and less tied down, I suppose I'd just aim for the best schools with the most topic - relevant faculty (that is, potential advisor). But being older with a family makes this trickier. THANKS!


David

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1. That is definitely not a usual thing to do. I get it with your situation, but I think many schools would view this as presumptuous considering that some of the best programs admit only 2-3% of applicants. Apply and then decide based on stipends once you're in if that's your primary consideration. There is also some information on stipends on phdstipends.com (though there aren't many entries for Philosophy on there). There was also a stipend survey done a few years ago that you might try to dig up. If you want to message me about particular schools and I can check the email archives since one of the last people who ran the admissions blog ran the survey.

2. An A+ and good letters are great and put you in the running, but those alone won't get you in. Your writing sample is the most important part of the application and your letters should be glowing. Bear in mind there are many applicants who have a near-perfect GPA and near-perfect GRE score and (likely) a good writing sample and letters who still are not admitted to every school to which they apply. 

3. Not sure about this one.

You've probably seen this resource already but in case not, it's a good one and I recommend checking it out. Best of luck to you!

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On 5/28/2017 at 6:23 PM, dkaa23 said:

1. Is it reasonable to contact philosophy depts and scholarship offices in order to "shop around" for the best stipends/scholarship (I am somewhat worried at how arrogant this might seem).

It depends on what you mean. It's perfectly reasonable to contact them to inquire about what their support packages typically look like.

 

On 5/28/2017 at 6:23 PM, dkaa23 said:

2. Would an A+ on my MA and decent written references land me a real shot at a top ten (like Harvard or NYU) or is it naive to think grades matter - perhaps letters from advisors and writing samples matter more? How about the grades alone getting my into a top 20, (like Australian National Uni)?

Like Sam Anscombe said, the writing sample matters most, as will strong references and your perceived "fit" (as evidenced in your letter of interest). Also bear in mind that departments in the UK (and I think this is also true for Australasia) will require you to submit a thesis proposal with your application. For any program that asks for it, this is the most important part of the application. You have to convince the relevant people that you're ready to jump right into writing your dissertation. 

Most of the ranked schools get hundreds of applications, and most of these are from people who were at the top of their BA and MA classes. Just about everyone had stellar grades, and the fact that you do too just means that you won't immediately stand out as less qualified than the other applicants. Good grades are more or less necessary, but not at all sufficient.

 

On 5/28/2017 at 6:23 PM, dkaa23 said:

3. I am older with a partner and dependent child. Does anybody know the best package for a guy like me? For example, ANU is tempting because of their scholarship amount, travel/moving allowance, and dependent-child allowance - but it doesn't cover fees. Auckland, on the other hand, covers fees and offers 27K. 

Honestly, all the packages are going to suck (especially in the US and Canada; the UK mostly won't have funding packages, and I don't know about Australia/New Zealand). Stipends are usually enough for a single person to scrape by on (although students at schools in the NYC area struggle, in my experience), but not much more. And if you're relocating, your partner might not be able to work.

Just keep an eye on how long the funding is guaranteed for (and remember that people usually take a little longer [a year or two] than the projected program length to finish). If you can find a school that guarantees a relatively high base stipend and treats TAing/teaching as supplementary income, then you're in a good spot (especially if they have enough TAing/teaching opportunities to go around).

Remember to look into whatever the relevant external (typically governmental) funding sources are for you (e.g. SSHRC if you're Canadian, Fulbright if American, AHRC if from the UK, etc.). If you can get one of these, it helps a lot.

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